2018’s Five Fierce Females of Preston Hollow
Roslyn Dawson Thompson, president and CEO of Dallas Women’s Foundation, and her staff are at the foundation’s headquarters assembling swag bags for a leadership program for nearly 400 Dallas ISD girls. Thompson has been a part of the organization almost since it began in 1985. She served on its board beginning in 1986 and stepped into the leadership role in 2011. For three decades, the organization has granted about $34 million to help create opportunities and solve challenges for women and girls in North Texas. Before that, she was an entrepreneur who owned her own public relations and marketing firm. She’s married to Rex Thompson and lives in Glen Lakes. She has a daughter, 34, son, 32, and step-son, 23.
Her greatest accomplishment at the foundation: We’ve grown the assets of the organization from about $26 million to about $34 million. We’ve almost doubled our grant-making since 2011 to $5 million. I’m proud that we have taken the lead among women’s foundations behind California. More than 20 percent of our overall assets are in gendered investments that are directly benefiting women.
The most challenging thing she’s overcome: Starting a business in Dallas in 1986 when our economy was not so hot. I had a 1-year-old, a 2-year-old and a failing marriage. Let’s just go for the trifecta.
The best advice she’s received: My dad was emphatic that success is owned by all. He was a war hero in World War II and highly decorated, recognized and written about. He said, “I got the medal, but the honor belonged to all the men with whom I served.” Modeling that leadership style is important whether you’re an entrepreneur or a CEO.
Advice she’d give her younger self: Trust yourself more and don’t be as fearful. You really were equipped to meet the challenges. Fear was a motivator. You might have just been enough.
Trust yourself more and don’t be as fearful.
On gender discrimination: You can’t reach my age and not have experienced it. It came from the banker who asked me where my husband was when I asked for a loan for my business. Getting access to capital has been a problem for women for a long time.
On work-life balance: I don’t know that I’ve ever done it. When I owned my own firm, I traveled as many as 30 times a year. I had a nanny from the time they were born. I missed an awful lot of my children’s lives just by choosing to provide for them. There was a lot of my sweet son saying, “Why aren’t you a cookie mom?” And I’d say, “I wish I could be, baby.” I’m better, but I’m so old now that I should be better. I’m very driven by work, and I love what I do. And I love my family.
What she looks for when she’s hiring: Passion for the mission and not being afraid of hard work. The only way to distinguish yourself is by a commitment to excellence, a commitment that you will deliver. Every woman who is here has a personal reason to care about the disparities that impact women and girls and has a real commitment to rectify that.
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